In this edition of The Journey, we look at the fantasy potential of Toronto Maple Leafs forward prospect Mitch Marner.
Born in Markham, Ontario and growing up in nearby Thornhill, Mitch Marner’s path to being drafted by his hometown team was one where he was the most talented player on the ice on any given night.
Although the playmaker received a scholarship offer to The University of Michigan as a teenager, he decided to follow in the footsteps of so many Canadian top-level players and instead chose to play in the Ontario Hockey League for the London Knights.
At age 16, Marner started his OHL career with a bang, playing in 64 games and recording 59 points. He was runner-up to OHL Rookie of the Year Travis Konecny, and Marner tallied the most assists of any first-year player in the league that season with 46. The young forward added nine points in nine playoff games in what would be a precursor to his breakout season in 2014-15.
In his sophomore season, Marner dominated the OHL. Playing alongside the Arizona Coyotes Max Domi, Marner would go on to post 126 points in 63 regular season games, failing to win the OHL scoring title due to Dylan Strome’s six point effort on the final game of the season.
Marner would be selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs fourth overall after what was a stellar campaign.
Picking up right where he left off, Marner has scored 116 points in 57 games this season despite missing games while playing with Canada’s WJC team. He has been especially dominant in London’s run to the Memorial Cup Final, averaging over two points per game in the Knights 18 playoff games.
Personally, I feel that Marner is the type of player who deserves an exemption when it comes to playing in the AHL as an underage player. There has been some talk about NHL organizations being able to designate one player per team as AHL eligible even if they are not eligible due to the AHL-CHL age agreement. Marner has nothing left to prove in the OHL, as he has been one of its best players for two full seasons already, but may not benefit from the rigors of playing a full NHL season at his age.
Playing at the AHL level would give young players who are at the level of Marner the ability to develop physically and mentally against peers who are more at their talent level despite their age.
From a scouting perspective, Marner is a dynamic offensive talent. He is the focal point of the London offense at both even strength and on the power play and is a rare player who can take the punishment that opposing players give out and smile as he sets up or scores a power-play goal.
Due to stature and offensive ability, he has long been compared to former London Knight, Patrick Kane. Marner is not afraid to go to the tough areas of the ice in order to make a play and is by no means a perimeter player who shies away from contact.
Marner boasts elite agility, skating ability and stickhandling allowing him to create space for himself in the offensive zone. His biggest risk will be injury, but Marner does a terrific job of not putting himself in vulnerable situations in all areas of the ice.
Fantasy Potential: Marner is the type of forward that could put up 100 points in a season if the cards fall correctly. Although he isn’t likely to give you a lot in terms of hits or penalty minutes, he will more than make up for it in offensive categories. He will be elite in point production, shots and power-play points for those playing in multi-category leagues.
Dobber Prospect Rank: 3rd ranked offensive prospect in DobberHockey’s Top 215
Fantasy Outlook: A
Pros: Offense, Skating, Agility, Stickhandling, Vision, Hockey Sense
Cons: Strength, Defensive Ability
Anticipated NHL Arrival: Due to the age requirements of the AHL, Marner is only eligible to play in the NHL or London next season, if he decides to stay in North America. His game has far surpassed the OHL level, but is his body ready for a full NHL season?
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